What a terrible tennis match taught me about visualizing my engineering career path

Author note: The video above is my first-ever YouTube video! Please be kind in your review of it, I promise I'll get better with practice! If you prefer to read versus listen, please read on below. To get the FREE goal-setting guide, please sign up below.

    Do you know where you are going in your engineering career?

    I am an avid tennis player. I was having a terrible match. My mind was somewhere else, contemplating an online course I was taking about money. As part of the course “homework”, I was supposed to be practicing what are called “visualizations”. These basically involved imagining where I would like to be with money one month, one year, 10 years on the horizon.

    It seemed like a bunch of useless, unproductive busy work to me. I’m a planner and a doer. Drilling down into the very specific – yet imagined - details of my financial future seemed like a waste a time to my pragmatic mind. But, the course teacher is a millionaire (and I am not), so clearly he knows a few things I do not about money. So, I had been attempting to give it a whirl with a healthy does of skepticism.

    Back in my terrible tennis match and with little to loose, I decided to try visualizing my serve. I imagined tossing the ball high into the air, reaching up and connecting with the ball in one fluid, powerful motion, and the ball landing at the exact location I had visualized. I imagined it would be an ace that my opponent would be unable to return.

    Thwack! Yes, that was an ace.

    Hmmmm……maybe this visualization stuff isn’t so hooey after all. But, perhaps I just got lucky.

    I tried it again, and served an ace a second time. Interesting. Surely, it could not happen again, could it?

    It happened again. (If you're skeptical I don't blame you. Not sure either myself or my opponent would have believed it either if we hadn't been there.)

    This was my first (but definitely not my last) experience with visualizations. Visualizations work the same for your career and life, yet we often don’t talk about – let alone imagine – growing into a person much bigger than our current reality.

    We get embroiled in the business of day-to-day project work: the deadlines, the meetings, the phone calls, the proposals, the urgency of immediately responding to an email. We are constantly busy but we don’t know where we are going.

    We don’t stop to think if responding to that email immediately really progresses our career goals, or if we are simply doing it to create a sense that we have checked something off our never-ending to-do list.

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    What does your dream career path look like? What are you doing? Where are you working? Who are you working with? How does your dream career blend your life and work?

    I can’t answer those questions for you. But I can tell you that if you keep on repeating the habits and behaviors you have today, you’ll get the same results.

    If you are happy with your current results, congrats! But if you are not, today I challenge you to take your lunch break, turn off that email and really think about YOU want. I've even created a career goal planning guide to help you do just that (see download at bottom of this page). 

    Write down where you want to be in as specific of terms as possible, and don’t let your current reality limit your dreams. Visualize what it looks like when you’ve “made it.” Are you leading a team? Working solo? Traveling? Working from home? In an office? Teaching? Consulting?  What kinds of projects are you working on? If you had to describe a “perfect day", what specifically are you doing? How is your day scheduled? These are all clues to discovering your career dreams.

    It’s OK if you simply don’t know. It took me years to figure out that my current reality didn’t have to be my future reality, and a career path determined by others wasn’t the only one available to me. YOU are the only one who knows what's best for you. Take the first step towards your big dreams by giving visualization a try. 


    Additional Resources List

    Want more info on how to start doing visualization? Below are resources to help you do just that, even if you've never heard of this technique! I only recommend resources I have personally used.

    The Miracle Morning Book by Hal Elrod

    If you haven't heard of the Miracle Morning, you are in for a treat! It's an easy and actionable read that will get you started with visualization, and change your day if you apply what you've read. Highly recommended and a book I go back to again and again.